Legal Question in Personal Injury in Ohio

My mother was killed in Ohio, by an 18yr old who ran a stop sign going 60 mph. My mother was in ICU for two weeks and life-support was removed, due to the severity of her injuries.

The 18 yr old was driving his mother's car, but does not live at her address.

The 18yr old has $100,000 of liability.

My mother has USAA, which had $100,000 of uninsured/under insured insurance and I understand that it's not stackable. (Or at least that's what USAA said). Since the USAA $ amount matches what the 18yr old has, the USAA (non-stackable) amount is moot (cancelled out by what the 18yr old has).

Since my mother died and there are no considerations about long-term rehab/care AND I understand that Medicare/Medicaid will cover the hospital bills, it seems that the 18yr old and his insurance company is off the hook, except for the repair or replacement of my mother's vehicle and any traffic/criminal charge the 18yr old is subject to.

This just doesn't seem right. His insurance company seems benefitted by the fact that she died. We're not looking for a pay-day, but it seems inequitable. We'll have costs for selling her house, funeral and other expenses as my sisters and I travel back and forth to Ohio and likely other things we're not considering at this point.

I suppose we could bring a wrongful death civil case against an 18yr old, but he has nothing and we're not looking to bankrupt an 18yr old. I'm not sure of my exact question other than to wonder if his insurance company isn't more liable than just the $100,000?


Asked on 12/15/14, 6:56 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Thomas Ryan Ryan LLP

I am sorry for your loss and wish there was more than compensation available to you and your family. The insurance coverage issues are dependent on the actual policies for each insurance carrier. What the USAA is saying to you sounds like it could be correct, but you should have an attorney review the information. There may be specific clauses that would allow for the under insurance provision to allow coverage. Without reviewing the specific policies, it is not possible to provide a better answer.

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Answered on 12/15/14, 7:03 am
Ryan Fisher Lowe Eklund Wakefield Co. LPA

It certainly is worth scheduling a meeting with a good injury attorney. While everything you say in your question may be accurate in these situations where the client is going to be so undercompensated I always explore all other options including a product liability case against the auto manufacturer if the impact was such that the occupant should have survived, the location from where the defendant was driving and was there any available insurance there, who gave the driver the car and was the driver competent to drive etc... While all these remedies are difficult, in this situation they are certainly worth exploring before accepting the $100K.

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Answered on 12/15/14, 7:24 am
Michael Brandabur Brandabur Law, LLC

USAA's answer is correct as to the fact Ohio law does not allow insurance to be stacked. So, if the policy limits are the same, your recovery is limited to $100k if those are the limits on both the driver's and your mother's policy. It is likely your sole source of recovery is the driver's $100k. The insurance company's liability is only for the amount of the policy, no more. That is where your own insurance policy of underinsured or uninsured coverage is so important, or having such additional coverage through an umbrella policy with $1M limit. The amount of recovery is limited to the amount of insurance, at least in regards to the insurance company, irrespective of whether there is a death, or just severe injury. The insurance company will only pay up to the policy limits. The total amount of recovery may be more, e.g. the decedent's policy may have @ $10k of med pay (USAA usually has this, if not always), and the 18 year old may have $ (doubtful). There may be a recovery under the criminal aspects of the case, e.g. Ohio Court of Claims. I would suggest consulting with an Ohio attorney familiar with this area of law to ensure all potential sources of recovery are examined.

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Answered on 12/15/14, 9:46 am

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